New volleyball coach brings tough and competitive mentality

Phat Nguyen, Sports Editor

When Wilkes University hired Meredith Alexis as the new head coach of the women’s volleyball program, they also brought in a championship level attitude lead to their young squad.

Alexis believes that her biggest strength as a coach is part of her knowledge of the game as a competitor and as a dominant role player.  She hopes to her winning attitude catches on.

“I think my biggest strength is knowing how to win and wanting to win,”   Alexis said. “I know we’re winners and want to instill it in these girls that they’re winners. When it’s all said and done and when the rubble clears, we’re going to come down out on top.”

This is the same mentality that made her the player that she is today.  After first team all-state performances in basketball and volleyball at Bishop Hoban High School, now Holy Redeemer. After high school, she took her talents to James Madison where she currently holds the schools record for career points (1,760) and the conference record for career rebounds (1,313). She currently ranks seventh in the NCAA record books in career rebounds, 37th in points scored, and 41st in field goal percentage (52.5%).

Meredith believes that her rebounding prowess came with a toughness mentality. Rebounding, to her, is not so much a skill but a desire, a toughness that she hopes to bottle and bring with her to young Wilkes squad.

“I want my girls to think, that’s my ball, I want it,” Alexis said. “I tell my girls to be aggressive, put a hole in the ground every time you spike it. They should want that first contact, and they should call out their sets every time.”

After graduating from James Madison, she participated in WNBA training camps with the Washington Mystics and the Connecticut Sun in 2007 and 2008. She also played professionally in Europe for Energa Torun in Poland, USSO Mondeville in France and Extrugasa de Arosa in Spain.

When she finished playing overseas and knew it wasn’t for her, she looked to use her degrees in finance and communications/public relations for employment, but unfortunately she feel into what she believes was one of the worst economic opportunities possible due to the recession.

“I never planned to be a professional basketball player,” Alexis said. “I actually planned to be an investment banker, but I couldn’t find a job anywhere at the time. It was the worst economic downfall.”

It wasn’t until her former high school coach John Kablick gave her the opportunity to help coach the men’s volleyball program at Holy Redeemer High School when they were ranked top eighth in the state. This is where she believes that her love for the game grew stronger.

“He got me to really fall in love with coaching,” Alexis said. “Now I really love coaching volleyball as much as I do playing. “

Not only did it open her eyes to new perspective of the game, he also got her into logistics and how to focus a team come game day.

Her high school coaches were an instrumental part of her growth as a player and now as a coach.  She even sometimes sees bits and pieces of her former mentors in herself when she is holding the clipboard. At Hoban, John Kablick and Bob Schuler, her basketball coach, made a big impact and were different from Kenny Brooks, her basketball coach at JMU.

“Coach Schuler and coach Kablick ran really disciplined teams at Hoban,” Alexis said. “You knew where you needed to be at all times, and if you didn’t they would stop and let you know immediately. They weren’t afraid to get in your face.”

“Coach Brooks was more laid back and had a more hand on method,” Alexis said. “He would always say things like I’m only going say this one time.”

Now, she sees herself as a combination of her mentors as she developed a listen to me first attitude, but still gives the opportunity to have fun. If Alexis sees something wrong now I’ll stop a play and explain how and why things happen.

While Alexis was first team all-state at Bishop Hoban for volleyball, a few of the players feel that she might be losing her touch a little. Brianna Edgar, a senior psychology major, believes that some of the Wilkes girls have a harder spike to dig.

“Despite her height, her form and approach isn’t always there, so she either swings in the net or out,” Edgar said. “When she does put it down, I’d say it isn’t harder than Paige’s spike, but she might be letting up on us to make it realistic.”

“Paige and Emily give me a run for my money, but more importantly, they also play smart and know how to win the point,” Alexis said.

While the team’s record is only 1-7 at the moment, it doesn’t show how close their games really are. Not to mention the girls lost arguably two of the best players to ever go through the Wilkes program in Marissa Harrison, the all-time kills leader, and Allison Kelleher, the all-time digs leader, who are both graduate assistants for the team now. Coach Alexis is very excited to still have them a part of a team.

“It’s great having Marissa and Allie involved with the program,” Alexis said. “They know volleyball and they bring an intrapersonal relationship with the team that creates a positive dynamic.”

“I think her competitive spirit is something that the girls can look up to and learn from,” Kelleher, a P2 pharmacy student, said. “She is going to greatly improve our program, especially through recruiting, conditioning, and game preparation strategies.”